Europe seeking reform within their strategic geo-political dimension

Published : 02 Aug 2022 08:27 PM | Updated : 02 Aug 2022 08:27 PM

The recent ideas put forward by French Presi­dent Emma­nuel Macron and Euro­pean Coun­cil President Charles Michel for a ‘European geo-political community’ has marked according to analyst Marta Mucznik the start of a collective reflection on how to expand the EU’s geopolitical reach beyond enlargement. The European Union realizes that the strategic paradigm within its matrix has started evolving faster than expected since the beginning of 2022. There was Brexit and its ramifications. However recent developments during this watershed moment have generated factors that need to be addressed- sooner the better.

It is true that they have been able to demonstrate since February this year their belief in human values and unity. However, there is also the need to reinvigorate the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. Contrary to what happened during the Trump Administration, ambition of unity has slowly emerged between the EU, UK, USA and Canada. The NATO factor has also generated its own connotation.

European leaders realize today that they need political will, structural changes and unity to prepare the Union for a new era related to policy dimensions.  It is clear among the EU leadership that it will be necessary to address the underlying causes and multiple consequences of the crises experienced by the EU since 2007 -through the existing interrelatedness- strategically and structurally.

In this context European analysts have been referring to the soaring energy prices, climate change- adaptation and mitigation needs- and also the consequences of massive increase in internal migration. All of these denominators are casting shadows on economic, social, political, institutional and security dimensions. It is being unanimously understood that there might be existing differences but they can be overcome- and that is required for the Union’s long-term future. Otherwise, if there is no constructive dynamic effort, the EU unity may break further.

In this regard there is some consensus that the EU has a strategic imperative to develop the capacities and capabilities to react to fundamental challenges quickly, decisively and jointly. It is understood that consensus will assist in developing new crisis instruments and contingency mechanisms. This in turn will help bring changes to the Union’s underlying decision-making structures. 

However, it will require finding new ways to combine national powers and capabilities with the supranational strength of the Union’s institutions and the Community method. This factor is being underlined by European institutions and civil society who have both underlined that if the EU could have tackled the Brexit issue safely and successfully- they can do it again. This time there has to be a combined effort to protect liberal democracy.

This understanding has motivated many countries to start discussing among themselves as to how they as well as all the countries of the European Union can cushion the effect of instability in Eastern Europe and help support vulnerable third countries- their vulnerable and affected sectors and social groups especially in the context of the cost-of-living crisis. Analysts are taking a second look as to how much political conditionality will be necessary or desirable? Financial experts are also examining the parameters pertaining to how finance transfers can take place. There are also different European civil societies examining how development aid can be used more strategically. There is also a degree of belief in the need to lever a more fundamental structural reform of EU refugee and migration policy.

At the same time there have been efforts to solve queries about near future macroeconomic governance, how to take the final decision regarding its adjustment- in terms of inflation, debt/deficits, or public and social investment. Within this matrix, some financial institutions have raised the question as to what would be the right balance in fiscal spending, due to higher military/security expenditure. A few have also drawn attention to whether the EU will need a larger budget and/or the ability to borrow permanently. This has acquired particular significance given the growing existential threat of climate change.

Many are also raising queries as to what kind of agricultural policy will the EU require in future. From that perspective some also want to know from the relevant authorities of the European Commission as to how sufficient investments can be generated to address multiple objectives, including EU security. In this regard, many consider the detrimental economic impact of the challenging climate change crisis will continue to intensify the cost- of-living crisis. This in turn is raising the issue of how the EU27 can secure stable supply chains, and what will be the role of the Single Market in future.  

Building up strategic resilience to conform to tactical needs has also drawn particular attention. Analysts, in this regard have been debating on the following aspects:- (a) addressing vulnerabilities and dependencies on other countries in Europe and beyond; (b) industrial policy needed to achieve the necessary degree of strategic autonomy, including in future technologies; (c) preparing the economy  better through contingency mechanisms for economic/global shocks, including  redundancies; (d) ensuring greater efficiency and effectiveness in military spending; (e) role required for coordinating defence investments, and for precise defining of the EU27 scope of the mutual defence clause (Article 42.7 TEU).

There is also an awareness that the EU needs to carefully rethink its future foreign and security policy- with regard to the providing of future security guarantees to EU Member States.

This includes some important denotations- (a) required structural changes necessary to prepare the anticipated Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP); (b) changes required in decision-making mechanisms; (c) will changes to the CFSP involve a stronger focus on potential ‘coalitions of the willing’? (d) whether future foreign and security policy needs to be integrated with other policy areas, such as trade, agriculture, migration or energy; (e) creating greater complementarity between the EU and NATO, including the Union’s relationships with the US and the UK; (f) Europe’s future security environment and the Union’s relationship with China; and (g) preparing for a potential future disengagement between the EU and the US. Another issue is also drawing particular attention- potential enlargement of the European Union. In this context, several matters are coming to the fore.

They include- (a) the on-going candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova and how that can impact on other candidate countries in the Western Balkans, Turkey or Georgia; (b) the necessary reforms that need to be carried out within the EU to prepare for future rounds of EU enlargement, including mechanisms that prevent democratic backsliding; (c) whether models of external differentiated integration can be applied for this purpose at this critical juncture; (d) if new models of internal and external differentiation, including the potential establishment of a European Political Community could provide a way forward for the evolving relationships between EU member states, and third countries.

Fabian Zuleeg and Janis A. Emmanouilidis of the EPC during their research have also unearthed in addition to the above, a few other aspects and have correctly drawn necessary attention to them.

They are as follows: reforming the EU decision-making process- that includes-(a) the point of what structural changes are necessary to ensure that the EU can act faster and more decisively related to current and future crises; (b) can there be any change in the decision-making mechanisms by introducing either the unanimity-minus-one principle or the super-qualified majority voting process; and (c) whether new principles have to be introduced for concrete treaty changes aimed at improving EU governance paradigm?

In addition, analysts appear to be spending time thinking about how to modernize EU democracy. Within this parameter, they are examining how EU democracies, within the current changing scenario, can  be better equipped to fight off internal and external threats, including those created in the cyber sphere, and through mis- and disinformation. It is good they are addressing this issue because inability to control this can lead to destabilization of governments and societies.

Along with this has emerged another important denominator that is having an osmotic effect not only in Europe but also in other parts of the world- including South Asia. It relates to the issue associated with how democracy not only within the EU but also elsewhere needs to be reformed to ensure it can deliver on citizens’ expectations.

In recent months, it has emerged that populations, especially young people, all over the world, need to be associated with the ongoing political process in a constructive manner and mobilized to defend the freedoms of citizens that have been earned with sacrifice. 

It is being felt that the benefits of representative democracy need to be linked with the need to enhance citizens’ participation in the policymaking processes by “adding new deliberative instruments to the existing toolbox”. 

It is quite clear from the above that the EU is beginning to understand that it can no longer rely exclusively on its transformative leverage to engage countries in its wider neighborhood. They also realize that new institutional structures are needed to cope with the emerging new security reality. The leadership slowly understands that there are broad as well as singular ramifications and dimensions. 

Proposals to create a European geo-political community are about like-minded allies jointly addressing complex issues that are resulting from a new security reality.  This will also require transparency. Otherwise lack of clarity will only fuel a polarizing and unwise debate.

Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance